These strikes show that the United States intends to support Afghan forces with combat aircraft based in Afghanistan, at least until the end of the U.S. military withdraw on August 31. Although the Biden administration has not yet indicated whether it will continue this support,
There are a number of U.S. combat aircraft that are based in the Middle East, within reach of Afghanistan. These include warplanes on an aircraft carrier and fighters and bombers operating in the Persian Gulf.
When asked by a reporter about reports of an airstrike by the Navy FA-18 in Kandahar, John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, did not provide details, such as the type of aircraft or the location. He said that the Pentagon had acted through airstrikes to support the ANDSF, which is an acronym for Afghan national defense and security forces. "But I won’t go into the technical details of those strikes."
These are the first U.S. airstrikes against Afghanistan since General Scott Miller, the U.S. top commander in Afghanistan, resigned and fled the country last week. General Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command and overseer of U.S. military operations in the Middle East, has now been given the authority to launch airstrikes against Taliban.
A second defense official stated that the United States had conducted more than four airstrikes on Thursday and Wednesday to support Afghan forces. According to the official, at least two strikes were conducted to destroy military equipment. This included an artillery piece and vehicle that was taken by the Taliban from Afghan forces. These strikes were requested by the Afghans, as well as those that target Taliban fighting positions, which includes at least one strike in Kandahar's southern province.
General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday at a Pentagon news conference that Afghanistan's future is in their hands and urged them to take control of the battlefield.
Milley stated that the Afghan security forces are capable of fighting and defending their country. He added that the US will continue to support them where needed, in accordance to the direction of the president and secretary.
Milley stated that the Taliban now control approximately half of Afghanistan's 419 district centres. They have not yet captured any of the 34 provincial capitals of Afghanistan but they are pressing for about half. He said that the Taliban are gaining more territory and the Afghan security forces are strengthening their positions to defend key population centers like Kabul.
Milley stated that "a significant amount of territory was seized by the Taliban over the course of six to eight, or 10 months, so momentum seems to be -- strategic momentum seems to be -- kind of with the Taliban."
According to Lloyd Austin, Defense Secretary, the U.S. will continue to focus on the countering of extremist threats to its homeland after August 31, the date President Joe Biden set for the completion of the military withdrawal. He said that the government will continue to provide financial and other support for Afghan defense forces even if there are no combat troops or strike planes based in Afghanistan.
Austin stated, "Make no mistake that our commitment to Afghanistan's security forces and Afghan government going forward is undisputable. We are doing what we promised to do to put the pieces in order to provide that support."